Five practical tools for reducing anxiety

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Most people have experienced anxiety at some point in their lives. In fact, one in four Canadians (12% of the population) have experienced anxiety within the last 12 months.*
 
Anxiety can present in different ways for many people and can range from mild, generalized anxiety to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or panic disorder. The most common symptoms include: body tension, discomfort, racing heart, increased sweating, chest pain, shortness of breath, feeling out of control, and apprehension about the future. Some have experienced the terrifying sensations of a panic attack which is described as a discrete period of intense fear or discomfort in the absence of danger. The onset of a panic attack is usually abrupt and lasts approximately 10 minutes or in rare cases a few hours. 

Anxiety is not all negative as there are some benefits to experiencing mild cases. It is helpful to motivate us to do better in our lives and to achieve accomplishments. It also provides a warning for a potential dangerous situation when it presents as that little voice or gut feeling that we should listen to in situations that make us uncomfortable. Certain medical conditions can also influence or worsen feelings of anxiety and should be investigated by a qualified healthcare professional. For example, if you experience more anxiety around your period a hormonal imbalance maybe a cause; in particular, low or deficient progesterone levels. Having an undiagnosed thyroid condition can also be cause of anxiety along with adrenal dysfunction.  

Here are five tools for reducing symptoms of anxiety:

1.    Dietary & Nutritional Considerations

Reduce or avoid caffeine – it can increase adrenaline and cortisol levels speeding up heart rate and potentiating feelings of anxiety.

Supplement with magnesium glycerinate - this one of my favourite minerals to prescribe as most Canadians are deficient in this important mineral. Glycine also crosses the blood-brain barrier acting on the calming GABA receptors promoting tranquility. Food sources high in magnesium include nuts and seeds, legumes/beans, and green leafy vegetables. 

2.    Consider Acupuncture

There are many acupuncture protocols and points that can help diffuse a potential anxiety attack or help management of anxiety generally. Consider acupuncture seeds or pressure tools if needles are a trigger for your anxiety! An example of a powerful point is on the top inner aspect of the ear called Ear Shen Men.

3.    Counselling

Discussing our feelings with an unbiased trained professional can be very healing and can provide insight into where the feelings have originated from. Counselling can also provide tools to diffuse anxious feelings before they escalate. A tool I like to recommend is pre-planning the details of an event with visualization of how the event will go well before its happens -- this tactic can make a huge difference in calming feelings of anxiety. 

4.    Deep Breathing Exercises

Taking slow, deep breaths is literally the fastest way to put your body into parasympathetic state (our rest and digest, relaxed state). I recommend people count their inhalation for 4-6 seconds, hold for 5-7 seconds, then exhale for 6-8 seconds, repeating this 4-5 times as necessary. 

5.    Anxiety Reducing Herbs

There are many herbs that have calming, anti-anxiety effects on the body. These include: rhodiola, lavender, valerian root, passion flower, kava kava and gotu kola. Another remedy that can be a great tool for in the moment anxiety is Bach Rescue Remedy; it is safe and effective for most individuals including children.  

As mentioned above, there are many reasons why you may be experiencing anxiety. If you are feeling overwhelmed it is always good to have a conversation with your healthcare provider to identify an underlying cause and to recommend specific treatment options.

For tips to improve overall health and wellbeing, nutrition, recipes and meal plans, visit Integrative Health.

Notes:
*http://anxietycanada.ca/english/pdf/kirby.pdf

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